Friday, 15 June 2012

Of forts and other things Omani

Last weekend, after visiting the Nizwa goat market, David finally got to see the Nizwa fort.  It's been there for a very long time.  Nizwa, the "Pearl of Islam," intermittently served as the capital from the 8th to the  12th century AD.  Built around the 9th century, the citadel consistes of the the Fort (Q'ala) and a residence/administrative castle (Hisn) - actually I lie, the Fort was built in the 17th century.  It is quite amazing - as you may have read in David's blog.  It is simply gigantic - 30 metres high & 36 metres in diameter - and filled to a height of 15 metres with earth and stone replete with murder holes and wells.  The walls continue to create an immense circular platform ringed with 23 cannons - yep, 360 degrees of cannon.  Just the thought of moving that much earth to fill that size fort beggars the imagination.  If I was a better person, I'd work out the volume.  Feel free to let me know the answer.

David and a 16th century cannon
This is one of the cannons at the door of the Fort.  Purty aint she?  You will, of course, notice the sexy basket at David is holding.  That's my new knitting basket - it seems to be kitten proof at the moment.

Sultan and David admiring the view (and the cannon)
This is just one of the 23 cannon positions.  Best View Ever!!! I certainly wouldn't want to be sneaking up on this thing.


The first well inside the fort.  There are two wells at ground level, both are still in use.  The original ropes are still in place for the tourists to look at, but both now also have monster pumps in them - not to mention the heavy grills to stop inquisitive tourists falling in.  Although..........



There are four wells, two round and two rectangular, at the top of the citadel.  All bored through that 15 metres of rock and earth.  All still with water at the bottom. All mind boggling. 

Just to give you an idea of the scale of the thing.  I took the next photograph sitting on the steps of the flagpole in the centre of the citadel (hey, there was shade, it was hot, I have knees that were already complaining violently at the less than gentle stairs to get this far!). Much to David's disappointment, the sentry walk was blocked off to the public.  Darn.

Climbing to the top 
The whole thing is an amazing museum, beautifully presented and fascinating.  It is definitely on the list of places to take visitors. 

This weekend we have a four day weekend.  It was only declared during the week, so we organised nothing.  Which was good, because the last two weeks has been a little tiring.  A break was definitely called for.  So we stayed home.  Well in Muscat, well close to Muscat.

We went looking for the mysterious Al Khoud Fort.  It only has one mention on the internet and that mention may be the wrong fort.  Odd.  Anyway, we went looking and we found this one! We have no idea what Fort it is.  It seems to be under renovation but was closed when we wandered round. This Fort is only about ten minutes from our house.  We need to find out more
    There are in fact cannons poking out!
from the car park

The secret garden Omani style

What's left of the next door neighbours

The fallaj the fort protects
That quick visit was followed by visiting the Bait Al Zubair in old Muscat.  This museum, consisting of three houses, was greated by the Zubair family from their own collection.  It houses a massive collection of Omani artefacts and has been set up as an educational institution.  Unfortunately photography is prohibited inside the museum, so I can't show you the amazing artefacts, clothing and everyday items that are displayed.  Of course if you come to visit it's definitely on the to do list.

Outside the buildings they have set up some old Omani living spaces.  We could take photos there.......

One of the mud brick structures used for kitchen and storage
There were two mud brick structures that seemed to be storerooms and perhaps a kitchen.  I'm actually kicking myself that I didn't open the door in the photo above.  Next time. You can see the water storage jars hanging from posts. This was the best way to keep water cool in summer and warm in winter.  Of course, in Oman, winters aren't very cold.......

The inside of the long house.
From the other end looking across into the low ceiling'd half of the room

The high pitched ceiling
This particular building was fascinating.  Like the men's sitting room at Sultan's house, the whole thing has sitting couches all the way round the walls.  The whole building appeared to be palm based wooden bits lashed together with palm fronds.  Inside was quite dark, although air movement was possible through the walls.  It was beautifully cool compared to the outside's high 30's temperature (note to self, do not stand on black slate in bare feet at this temperature).

A frame for perfuming cloth

This little baby is my new favourite Omani thingy.  It's a little tripod that you sit over your incense burner.  The you pop over a cloth, veil, any thing that you want to perfume!  Yet more uses for palm fronds!

First glance at the diorama
So, this is the best place to go for a first visit if you want to get an idea of Omani culture.  You will get a marvellous idea of the material culture of Oman.  Essential for getting some idea of what to get as souvenirs :-)

The Kitten formerly known as Bundle
Apparently it's time to shower more attention on the now infertile cat, who has  been renamed Button.  She's just not a Bundle any more and she's as fast as Jenson Button of formula 1 fame.

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